I wrote all this out once … then deleted it, because … well, who cares? I mean, really, so what? I have an opinion on a film which is the same as some people’s and different to others’. There are lots of opinions out there; one more seems a bit pointless especially when we’re talking about a film which, ultimately, just wasn’t for me.
But then, people started asking me what I thought and said they were interested in what I’d deleted and Twitter proved to be the most annoying way of conveying my thoughts … so I’ve written it all out again for their benefit.
The original post went something like this:
I’m finally able to talk about The Dark Knight Rises. I couldn’t for a while, even though I saw it on opening night, because I went on my own and Mandy was very keen to see it.
After watching it, I really felt there was nothing I could say which wouldn’t completely ruin the film for her and possibly even dissuade her from going; which wouldn’t be fair when she’d enjoyed the other two films so much.
So I kept quiet and I bided my time.
I said nothing anywhere, either online or off, despite watching everyone wade into a mass-debate (the best kind of debate) on Twitter and reading reviews which range from BEST FILM EVER to WORST PIECE OF SHIT IN HISTORY. I’ve read a lot of reviews from people I respect, wondering if we’d actually seen the same film because nothing they described chimed with my experience.
Well, that’s all over now. I can speak. Mandy’s been to see it and she has her own, completely unbiased, opinion. I’m in no danger of ruining anything for her.
You, on the other hand, might well be a different matter.
SPOILER ALERT – EVERYTHING BELOW THIS PARAGRAPH IS A TEDIOUSLY LONG-WINDED AND IN-DEPTH RANT ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. THERE ARE SPOILERS, BOTH IN TERMS OF PLOT AND ENJOYMENT … IT’S A REALLY LONG, PROBABLY BORING, RAMBLE.
READ ON AT YOUR PERIL.
So, Mandy’s seen the film and her opinion is … she fervently wishes I’d spoilt the film for her and dissuaded her from going.
She actually hates me for allowing her to see the film and seems to have taken it as some indication of me not loving her any more.
Which I do.
So what, in my opinion (and that’s all that it is, not facts) is wrong with the film?
Well … pretty much all of it.
I just found the whole thing immensely tedious. Nothing happens for long stretches at a time and when it does, it barely makes sense. The film is nearly three hours long … yet feels like there’s not enough time for any character development. There are dozens of characters, most of whom could easily be snipped out without changing the film at all … apart from making it shorter.
Bruce has given up being Batman because … well, I’m not really sure. Apparently, because there isn’t any organised crime in Gotham any more.
I struggled with this concept for most of the first act because it just doesn’t fit in with my idea of who Batman is and who he seems to be in the first two films. He became Batman because he’s obsessed with his parents’ death and wanted to avenge them/stamp out crime.
Except, apparently that’s not right.
Apparently he only wanted to stamp out organised crime … and the random street violence which killed his parents isn’t really important.
Afterwards, I realised the mistake I was making here – this isn’t Batman, this is Christopher Nolan’s Batman and looking back, I suppose he doesn’t really fight random street violence. I kind of assumed he did in-between fighting the Scarecrow and the Joker, but maybe not.
To be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on whether or not his parents were actually murdered by Ra’s al Ghul. I guess if they were (a fact he may or may not have found out at the end of Batman Begins, depending on whether it actually happened or I’m imagining it) then once organised crime has finished he’d be quite happy to let other people’s parents get murdered in random muggings.
Doesn’t seem right to me, but okay, let’s go with this.
So Bruce stopped being Batman eight years ago and with no Batman, he’s got no reason to be Bruce Wayne either, so he just sits in his giant house and mopes.
Hmm … pretty certain in the first two films, as in the comics, his defining characteristic is suppressed rage. I guess that rage has gone now? So he’s just moping.
But then Alfred says Bruce is just waiting for the chance to become Batman again. Um, right. So he’s obsessively keeping up with his training so he’ll be ready when he’s needed?
So … he’s not waiting for the chance to become Batman again?
Or he is, but only mentally not physically?
His leg’s fucked – cool, that’ll make it really, really hard for him to become Batman again. He even goes and has a physical so we get a scene where a doctor explains to us in graphic detail why he CAN NEVER BE BATMAN EVER AGAIN.
Except it doesn’t actually work out like that.
Once he decides to become Batman again, he fits a magic electric brace and it’s as if his leg was never fucked. Which I would kind of buy if he wore it all the time, or limped when he took it off … but does he really wear it when he’s in bed, fucking Miranda Tate or lying in a prison cell stripped of all his Bat-gadgets? Is it a permanent, one shot cure for having a fucked leg? What’s the point of setting up this immense obstacle to him becoming Batman … only to have the obstacle instantly removed with a magic cure? It’s as if his leg were never damaged and it’s never, ever mentioned again. You know what that’s the same as? It’s exactly the same as not bothering to give him a fucked leg in the first place. I mean, why bother? If all it adds to the film is length … seriously, why bother?
Similarly his broken back, which I had no idea how they were going to fix in the time available … okay, so we later found out it wasn’t broken; it was just a bit bent. Someone else wanders in, pops his vertebrae back into place … and wanders off again. There was absolutely no point in (not) breaking his back. If you left out the (not) back breaking, you would have EXACTLY THE SAME FILM.
He also loses his entire fortune!
In a way which I don’t entirely understand because, apparently, if terrorists break into the stock exchange and falsify your credentials in front of thousands of witnesses, the police and the TV cameras … that’s legal. It stands. No one thinks that’s a problem.
But, oh no! Bruce is going to get kicked out of the manor and have all his toys confiscated and they’re going to find out he’s Batman and how will he deal with this?
Quite easily, as it happens; because although he goes broke and gets all his assets confiscated … they let him keep the house. And all his secrets and toys. Phew, that was lucky – there was almost some drama there.
There’s a good lesson here though – an obstacle is only an obstacle if the hero struggles to overcome it. If someone else does it for him or he just puts on a magic-leg-thing … not really an obstacle.
So Bruce becomes Batman again … because … well, just because.
And here we go!
This is the exciting bit!
The return of Batman after 8 years away!
This is going to be epic!
We know it’s going to be epic because a policeman tells us it’s going to be one hell of a show! And here’s Batman! He’s riding a bike! He’s punched someone … and then he rides off.
Was that it?
Batman on a bike doing the ‘jump the car transporter’ thing? Really? That’s the big entrance?
And almost instantaneous exit?
This kind of reminded me of Batman Returns – you have this hugely dynamic character with a cape which looks awesome in motion … and his entrance, the first time you see him in that film, is … walking around a corner.
Two rules for Batman I felt the current series really understood:
- Never let anyone get a good look at him
- Never have him walking
He should strike from the shadows, be only half seen, a half-glimpsed, terrifying menace.
Batman Begins, The Dark Knight … he’s this kinetic ball of awesomeness who melts into shadows and appears and disappears at will.
The Dark Knight Rises – he tends to walk a lot. Sometimes he runs into the shadows, comes out in the Bat, fires a, largely ineffective, gun which goes ‘pop’ … and then comes back out for some more walking; but mostly he just strolls around the town.
Part of what I want from a Batman film is awesome action set-pieces. I want character and believability and struggle and arcs and all that stuff … but I also want Batman to be super cool and kick arse.
In this film:
- He rides a bike!
- He jumps off a step and punches some faceless thugs … who are apparently no ordinary thugs, despite having the amazing abilities to get knocked out with a single punch and miss EVERYTHING they shoot at with machine guns.
- He walks into some tunnels. Okay, so he does a little bit of popping out of the dark at people, but mostly it’s just walking.
- He has a (crap) fist fight with Bane.
Batman is a bit rubbish here, which I suppose was the point since all his joints are fucked (or possibly electrically activated) and until a few hours ago he was really skinny and barely able to stand (but as soon as he shaved off his beard he put on a couple of stone and beefed up) Now he’s … well, he just walks into a room and gets beaten up in a really half arsed fight. Bane can’t really be bothered with him, Batman doesn’t bother using any of the fighting techniques he learnt in the first two films … he just ambles around, mostly face-first into fists.
Oh no, Batman’s fallen!
Which would be shocking, if he hadn’t started fallen.
I mean, he was broken, he fixed himself with electrickery … only to get broken again and then fixed again by someone else. Did we need both of those? Is it not better to have a character start in one state and fall to a different state? Should plot points really have the word ‘again’ after them?
But wait, he’s not done! Later on he comes back and …
- Walks around a bit!
- Decorates a bridge!
With a fiery Bat-Signal because he felt that was the best use of his time when there’s a giant fucking neutron bomb about to go off. I guess he wants people to know he’s coming.
Oh no, hang on, that wouldn’t make sense – they’d just blow up the bomb, wouldn’t they? I mean, come on, it’s only got a couple of hours left now.
No, apparently not.
So Batman’s back and he walks up to Gordon, then walks up to Blake, then walks up to Bane and has another half-arsed fist fight while thousands of extras around him get into a proper, full on ruck.
This is the big action scene by the way, a fist fight. Again.
And then he flies a helicopter while other people do the action bits. And then he’s dead. Well, the Batman is at least.
And that’s all the action Batman’s allowed.
- Riding a bike.
- Flying a helicopter.
As Bruce Wayne he didn’t fare much better. For some reason he put a tracking device in his mother’s pearls … which since master cat-burglar Selina Kyle didn’t notice and didn’t take the box, must have been actually inside one of the pearls.
Bruce’s mother’s pearls are so precious to him he destroys one by drilling it out and hiding a transmitter inside?
Later on he fucks Miranda Tate because … he can, I guess. Because that’s what Bruce does when he’s out of the public eye and doesn’t need to keep up his playboy persona … he just has casual sex with a woman he’s met twice. I guess even Batman gets horny occasionally … but did we need to see it? Again, if you took it out of the film, would it actually make a difference? Apart from to the length? And to the general ‘making sense’ part?
And that fucking prison leap of faith thing. Jesus. First time you see the faceless-prison-guy jump, you can clearly see the rope is holding him back. It’s too short and goes tight before he gets there.
Ah, so the secret is to remove the rope.
Bruce goes up, he’ll work this out straight away because Bruce is Batman. He even tests the rope and looks dubiously at the distance – he’s not stupid.
Oh, apparently he is.
Several attempts later and I’m waiting for Batman to work out something I’ve known for about half an hour now. I don’t really want to watch Batman struggle to work out the obvious.
And what the fuck was that prison anyway? How does that work? Can anyone just wander in and leave a prisoner there?
Alfred has two roles in this film. To start with he’s there to tell Bruce things he already knows. You used to do this, you used to do that, you did this, remember? After he gets bored of delivering endless clunky exposition, he bursts into tears until he fucks off … and doesn’t bother coming back until there’s some more sobbing needed at the end. If you took Alfred out of this film … you’d have exactly the same film. Just drier. And shorter.
Selina Kyle is awesome. Sometimes. Other times she’s a bit wet. Depends on what the scene calls for really. The whole blank slate thing just didn’t ring true – I mean, really? She doesn’t know anyone who can get her a fake passport? She can’t find anyone who looks like her and steal a passport long enough to leave the country? She can’t just steal one expensive thing, sell it and then fuck off? If you took her out of the film … someone else would have to get Bruce’s fingerprints for the robbery-which-doesn’t-make-sense (at least to me, I’ll happily admit I don’t understand financial things) and then … well, you’d need someone else for the random and unlikely ‘love’ scene in the café. That could just as easily have been someone else, given how little affection Selina and Bruce showed for each other throughout … and given Bruce fucked someone else halfway through their courtship.
Blake also has two functions in the script – that lovely twist reveal at the end, which was great and … to fail at everything, continuously throughout the film. He fails to get a man to move a mixer, he fails to nab the criminals at the Selina/random businessman fingerprint trade, he fails to protect the Commissioner at the hospital after failing to throw away his gun (he looks at his gun, he’s disgusted with having killed someone, so he throws it away … then immediately picks up a bigger one), he fails to get the cops out of the sewer and then he fails to rescue the kids – a mission he was given because … just to keep him out of the way, I guess. Pretty much the same way the Special Forces guys told him to stay and ‘look after’ the Wayne Enterprises board so he wouldn’t get shot when they did. The reward for all this failure is, he gets to be the new Batman. Hooray! Because apparently all you need to be Batman is anger … unless you actually are Batman, in which case all you need is shit loads of money and the ability to mope in your room for 8 years.
Actually, let’s be fair to Blake – he does have one really important skill. He can deduce Bruce Wayne is Batman because they share an angry fake smile … as opposed to deducing Bruce Wayne also had dead parents. That’s pretty fucking amazing bit of deducting there. Hmm … that man’s smiling, Batman never smiles, therefore … holy unlikely assumption, Batman!
Except, hang on, Bruce isn’t angry any more, he’s mopey. So surely Blake would take one look and realise he’d made a mistake? And why did Alfred let him in? Blake shows up, demands to see Bruce. Alfred says no. Blake hints at a Dent connection and Alfred immediately lets him in? Really? Alfred is that bad at keeping Bruce’s secrets?
Commissioner Gordon turns out to be the only person in the film who doesn’t know Bruce is Batman which makes him look fairly fucking stupid. He does have the only action sequence in the film though, so he’s not that badly served … although it does take him FIVE FUCKING MONTHS to decide he should try and work out which truck has got the bomb in it.
The bomb he knows is going to explode in five months.
That’s some pretty dynamic police-action there.
He didn’t even bother telling anyone in the outside world – I mean, no one could think of a way to communicate with anyone? No phone calls, no mobile phones … okay, so maybe ALL the phone lines were cut and ALL the cell towers were smashed or de-powered but, no semaphore across the river from a building, no Morse code mirror-flashing, no pigeons, no firework rockets with messages tied to them … no one could think of any way of telling the military what was actually going on?
And then there’s pretty police-uniform-man. Foley, was it? He has some scenes. He’s snarky at the beginning, then he’s sarcastic, then he’s fucking clueless, then he gets scared and hides in his house until Gordon comes and knocks on his door “Come out and play!” says Gordon. “No, don’t want to.” says Foley. Now be honest, did you care whether this guy came out to play or not? He does anyway and gets killed. Guess what happens if you take his character out of the film?
Except shortening it a bit.
Miranda Tate turns out to be a villain! This was a true shock because … well, it’s so irrelevant. And in the process she also turns Bane into a completely irrelevant pussy. In fact, he’s so irrelevant he’s idly killed with one (massive) bullet just to get him out of the way. Once he’s gone, Miranda (who’s actually Talia … who in movie terms, you didn’t know existed) can do the things Bane would have done had Miranda not been in the film. Guess what happens if you take Miranda Talia out of the film?
No, not nothing!
You have a (slightly) more satisfying end for the villain as opposed to a “Ha ha! He’s not the real villain, the real villain is someone you don’t care about; but Bruce did fuck earlier, so she must be important!”
On top of all these there’s a businessman, the businessman’s friend who looks very similar to the scarecrow, the scarecrow who’s making people (for some reason) walk on ice (which is both thin and instantly reforms), Lucius Fox who doesn’t really do anything either, the Mayor – he gets blown up for whaving really pretty eyes.
All of these people are given screen time, none of them actually serve any useful purpose.
The businessman hires Bane to do some stuff that he was going to do anyway and hires Selina to do some stuff which Bane could have hired her to do, the businessman’s friend … just is. Lucius half takes over from Alfred, and helpfully puts all the weapons in one place so Bane can steal them easily. The Mayor … well, you’ve got to have a Mayor.
Although when he gets blown up, no one notices.
Then you have the slavering hordes of criminals who get broken out of Blackgate prison so they can … never be mentioned again. That was a worthwhile scene.
Oh, and don’t forget the hundreds of police officers who walk really slowly towards Bane’s crack, machine gun firing mercenaries … who only manage to hit three cops.
With machine guns!
The power goes out in Gotham City! But not the power for the TVs, just the street lights. Or maybe they don’t? People looked like they were burning stuff to stay warm … but maybe they weren’t?
Bane captures a flying helicopter-Bat just like the one Batman has! But doesn’t use it. We know he has one because we see another one at the end, one Bruce had fixed the software on.
Which is a shame, because that Bat-helicopter thing can travel at half the speed of sound!
It can carry two people … but struggles to pick up a bomb, so I guess that bomb must have weighed a fair bit. Maybe that Bat-helicopter thing could actually break the sound barrier if it was unbombed! Shame it didn’t have the same missiles on it as the Bat Pod since the Bat’s missiles bounced off the Tumblers, but the Bat Pod’s could blow them up. I guess a temporary escape vehicle would have more fire-power than a specifically designed assault vehicle.
The kid in the orphanage who’s about … what, 12? Obsessively draws Bat symbols on a bench … even though he must have been 4 when Batman disappeared. But hey, Batman probably made a big impression on a four year old … except, how long was Bruce actually Batman? I always felt The Dark Knight followed immediately on from Batman Begins – maybe a month or two has passed. I reckon Batman Begins covers a month or so as Batman, The Dark Knight covers maybe the same amount of time … so I guess Bruce was Batman for about … what, six months before he gave up for eight years? He made a hell of an impression on people in six months.
A kid gets into trouble from a street-thug-meanie because he stole an apple … but shortly before, we saw an aid truck dropping off supplies and before that we saw one of Bane’s men asking to meet with troops so they can discuss terms for supplies. They even left a bridge standing specifically so … um … well I guess it’s to bring in supplies and maybe to let other things out; but probably because they knew someone had to give Blake something to do at the end or he’d just get in the way failing at everything. So there are supplies coming in … enough to feed the cops stuck in the sewers for five months … it doesn’t really come across as if there’s a food shortage. Until it does. Then it’s not mentioned again.
I could go on all day.
I have gone on all day.
Basically there wasn’t a single scene which made sense when put next to any other scene. There were dozens of characters without any point and a lot of God-awful dialogue. When Batman faces up to Bane at the end and says something like “I’ve come back to stop you.” I actually burst out laughing.
Selina’s goggles/ears were cool. The way she beat up the baddies and then pretended to be a screaming wreck was cool. Her arse (if you’ll allow me a moment’s crudeness) was cool in that suit, but I’m not convinced anyone can stand that close to a man and still have her foot on his wrist at her head height.
Unless she has a foot on her knee.
I struggled to understand why any character did anything they did, all the way through the film. Nobody did anything I could make sense of and just seemed to behave in a way which would get the film over and done with as quickly as possible – which is odd in a film that’s that long. It really felt as if someone had taken months to go through all the comics and collect every cool image they could think of … and then spent a week or so stringing those bits together. As if the motto for the film was “We’re not doing another one, shove it all in here.”
Ultimately I was just bored.
Bored enough to think all the above while I was watching a Batman film. The only things I want to be thinking during a Batman film is “Oh my God! What’s going to happen next?” or “How’s he going to get out of that one?” or “HOLY FUCK, THAT WAS SO COOL!” … but not “Eh?” or “Why did he do that?”
And please don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe I could do better – this isn’t a writer raging against the injustice of the Hollywood system. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t do better; but that’s not the point.
These guys can.
They have done.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are amazing. This film should have been average at its very worst … but it’s not. Or at least, I didn’t think it was. I just found it nonsensical, dull, boring, humdrum, uninspiring, lacklustre, uninvolving, dreary and tedious.
I know, technically, those words all mean the same thing; but that’s how dull I found it.
I also know other people have completely the opposite opinion. They loved the film, they found it exciting and action-packed and thrilling and emotional and … and … I just don’t understand what they were watching.
Or what I wasn’t watching.
I understand people have different opinions and I understand they might revel in the intricate background politics or some subplot or subtext I missed … but the phrase that confuses me the most is “I loved the action, it was amazing!”
Seriously, where was the action?
There was some punching, sure; but nothing you’d call action, surely?
I came out of it thinking I must have been wrong to go looking for action in a Batman film. I guess it just wasn’t that sort of film it was more of a thinking film (albeit one which doesn’t stand up to much); but other people seem to have come away having watched a rock ‘em sock ‘em all out action finale.
And now my wife hates me.
And her numb-arse hates me too.
All in all, The Dark Knight Rises … it’s just not for me.